Directed by: SUSAN STROMAN
Starring: NATHAN LANE, MATTHEW BRODERICK, UMA THURMAN, WILL
FERRELL, JON LOVITZ, ROGER BART
Released by: Sony
Pictures and Universal Pictures
Short: The movie version of the Broadway
musical adaptation of "The Producers"
is a lifeless rehash of the Tony Award-winning
Mugging With Murderous Results
How to Kill a Classic
By Jenny Peters
the musical version of Mel Brooks' classic 1968 movie
comedy "The Producers" opened on Broadway a
few years ago, it was a smash hit, sweeping the Tony Awards,
and is, in fact, still playing. Also written by Brooks,
the play took the funny original story of a flamboyant
show producer and a meek accountant who join forces in
a scheme to make millions from producing a Broadway flop
and hung a series of song-and-dance numbers onto it. That
obviously worked on the stage, especially with Broadway
veterans Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the leading
roles of showman Max Bialystock and numbers-cruncher Leo
Bloom. The problem is that they should have just let it
be a legendary Broadway success, because the new movie
version is a disaster.
the moment Nathan Lane hits the screen, things turn sour.
The normally charming and funny actor hasn't ratcheted
down his stage performance an iota for the film version,
resulting in an in-your-face, totally fake and downright
embarrassingly overblown performance. Matthew Broderick
soon joins him, right on the same page of over-acting,
playing to the back row of the theater despite the fact
that the camera is right in his face. It all feels tired,
studied and rote, as if they have performed it so many
times that it is impossible to make it fresh, funny or
realistic. Together they actively mug their way through
the interminable musical numbers, with tunes and moves
that mostly come off as lame rehashes of older (and better)
musicals made back in the Fifties.
the up side, Uma Thurman looks good as the Swedish bombshell
Ulla, but her one-joke character and intermittent accent
make her little more than eye candy. At least Will Ferrell,
as the Nazi-loving playwright of "Springtime for
Hitler" (the planned flop that "The Producers"
produce in the course of the story) keeps his German accent
on track and actually has a couple of amusing moments.
And Roger Bart, who was also part of the original Broadway
cast and is now better known as George, the murderous
pharmacist on "Desperate Housewives," makes
the most of his role as an over-the-top gay assistant,
despite the incredibly hokey (and ridiculously stereotypical)
homosexual jokes he's forced to try and make funny. But
overall the laughs are so few and far between in this
excruciating flick that it is mind-boggling to imagine
that comic genius Mel Brooks actually had a large hand
in the writing.
it is still possible to enjoy "The Producers."
It just isn't by seeing the new film. Instead, to experience
the truly funny, classic version, rent the DVD of the
1968 movie, or if you really love musicals, take a trip
to see the show on Broadway.